Makes 25 to 30 Dozen
Read these instructions thoroughly before beginning. It is best to have four to five people helping you.
To begin your experience you will need the following items:
12 lb. Wet Masa (fresh ground corn which can be purchased at a local molino) See note below.
4 lb. Pure Lard (8 cups)
10 oz. Dried Fiesta Brand Mild Ancho Chili Pods
(Use New Mexico chili pods for New Mexico flavor)
6-6 oz Bags (36 ounces) Fiesta Brand Ultima Leaf by Leaf Corn Shucks
2.5 oz. Fiesta Brand Ground Comino
2 oz. Fiesta Brand Chili Powder
2 oz. Fiesta Brand Paprika
4 oz. pkg. Fiesta Brand Fresh Garlic or 4.5 oz Fiesta Chopped Garlic in Oil
6 oz. Fiesta Brand Garlic Powder or Granulated Garlic
1 oz. Fiesta Brand Ground Black Pepper
1/4 oz. Fiesta Brand Whole Oregano
Salt to taste
MSG to taste
6 lb. Coarse Ground Pork
3 lb. Coarse Ground Beef
1 extra-large mixing bowl
2 12-qt. cooking pots or tamale cans with lids
Note: If you prefer to start with dry masa, purchase six pounds of masa harina and follow package directions to make about 12 pounds of wet masa.
The Day Before
Cook beef and pork, covered in a 300 degree oven for about four hours. When tender, remove meat and save the drippings. Meanwhile, stem and seed the chili pods. You might want to use kitchen gloves for this step. Pull off the stem and tear open the pods down one side and rinse under running water. The seeds will wash out. Discard the seeds.
Remove the chili from the skin by simmering the pods in a covered pot of water for about 15 minutes, remove from heat and cool. The pods should be a bright red color. Scrape the pulp from the skin, chop the pulp and set aside. Also, save the chili pod water. Discard the skins as they and the seeds tend to be bitter. (If you use New Mexico pods, discard the seeds, boil the pods and grind the whole pod. You cannot remove the skin.) Peel and chop the heads of garlic or use two tablespoons of chopped garlic and sauté in two tablespoons of lard.
Combine and mix well: cooked meat, sautéed garlic, chili pod pulp, 4 tablespoons ground comino, 4 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons ground black pepper and a pinch of whole oregano. Refrigerate mixture overnight to allow the flavors to develop and permeate the meat.
Bright and Early the Next Day
Remove the meat from refrigerator. Put all the corn shucks in the sink or a tub and fill with warm water. They are inclined to float so you will have to weigh (push) them down into the water. Soak for two hours minimum – the longer, the better. This softens the shucks and makes them easier to use. Begin separating the corn shucks one by one until you have a large stack ready.
You will want to keep the tamales off the bottom of the pot as they steam. A cushioning layer is needed. This can be a few corn shucks, overturned tea cups or aluminum foil crushed up. The tamales will cook in a steam bath. By spacing the tamales off the bottom of the pot, you can add water for steam without the tamales sitting in water. Get your pots ready.
Now for the Masa
In a large bowl, place 12 lb. wet masa which was prepared earlier. Gradually add 8 cups melted lard. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chili powder, 8 tablespoons paprika, about 6 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons powdered garlic, 2 cups of chili pod water, and half of the meat drippings you collected from the cooked meat. Work mixture with your hands until thoroughly mixed (an electric mixer makes this step much easier.) The main idea here is to work air into the masa until it is smooth and fluffy. It is impossible to over mix.
Now Comes the Spreading
Assemble helpers around the kitchen table and continue your experience. Everyone should have a flat plate or small tray and a butter knife or spatula. Take an unbroken shuck and place it on the tray in front of you, small end up, opening toward you. (See figure 1)
Using a butter knife or spatula, dip into the bowl of masa and take out approximately one heaping tablespoon of masa. Spread it on the shuck in such a way that it covers the lower two-thirds of the right four inches of the shuck. The masa should be thick enough so that you cannot see through to the shuck. (See figure 1)
Next spread some meat filling on the middle of the masa. (See figure 2) The thickness of the masa and filling is strictly personal preference. You decide how much masa you would like around your filling. Think of other tamales you have eaten and decide what you like best.
The tamale is then rolled over starting from the side with the masa and meat. (See figure 3) The un-spread side covers the outside and holds it together. The unfilled end is then folded over to the middle.
The stacking and cooking
As you roll up the tamale, stand them shoulder to shoulder, open end up around the bottom of the pot you prepared earlier. After filling the pot, add 1 cup or more of water and put a tight fitting lid on; steam for about 1 hours or until the masa peels away from the shuck. The tamale tester gets to eat the first one! You may have to occasionally add water in order to keep the pot from boiling dry. Be sure to let the tamales cool for 10 -15 minutes so they become firm before eating. You will probably have to fill two pots to use all prepared ingredients.
If the meat filling runs out, and you have some extra masa, bean tamales can be made simply by substituting re-fried beans for the meat before rolling. You can also fry a strip of bacon and put it inside for a bacon flavored tamale. Chicken filling can be made by boiling some chicken and seasoning it with comino, chili powder, garlic and salt to taste.
Remove the shuck and enjoy the finest tamale available anywhere – right from your own kitchen. After cooling, tamales can be wrapped in foil and frozen for future enjoyment.